September 17, 2011

I almost died once.

The year was 1997, and Mr Woog and I were in the middle of a 2 year backpacking trip.  We were based in London, where we worked day jobs and backed it up with pulling beers at night. We would fill up the coffers and look at a world map and plan a 3 month stint somewhere.

Back then, a 24 hour bus trip to Prague did not scare me.

Back then, a concrete floor with a filthy mattress did scare me, and more often than not these were the standard of our lodgings.

Me, Mohammed and a camel names Moses.

During one of our tours, we found ourselves in Egypt.  Now I was not such a big fan, especially when our time there coincided with a massacre where 60 were killed at the Valley of the Kings and we happened to be there the day before. I wanted out.

We got back to Cairo and looked at the Lonely Planet.  We thought it might be good to travel overland to Dahab, a Bedouin fishing village on the Red Sea with Saudi Arabia in the distance. On the map it looked like a short jaunt over a wee desert to reach Sharm el sheikh, which was where we were to go next to get to Dahab.  

Without my knowledge, Mr Woog booked 2 tickets on the local’s bus. Turns out that little part on the map was 510km and the locals bus had no windows, no air conditioning, no women but an abundance of dust and chickens.

To say I was pissed off was an understatement to the extreme. I would still rank that fight as one of the all-time top ten.

After days of travel, the sight of the Red Sea was extremely welcome. Mr Woog went off searching for some accommodation while I minded the bags.  He came back soon, saying he had found an absolute bargain.  The one legged inn keeper showed me a windowless concrete box with 2 camp beds in it and this was the deluxe room because it had a lock on the door.

I thanked him for his trouble, shot Mr Woog a look of pure hate and went and rented a cane hut on the beach for a week. With beds. And a window and a lock.

We quickly slipped into Dahab life. Before we knew it we had spent 2 weeks getting stoned and playing backgammon with the locals. I could tell some backpackers had arrived years ago and had never left, so I thought it was best we packed up and moved on.

We continued to travel overland,  this time into Israel and this time in a bus that had air conditioning AND a loo. People that say travelling vast distances overland is the only real way to see a country can go and bite me. It was total shit.

Arriving in Tel Aviv was a welcome relief. There were beautiful shops and beautiful people but very little choice in places to stay.  We ended up at a youth hostel sharing a room with a close relative of Pauly Shore,  if indeed it was not Pauly Shore himself.

Next day a suicide bomber attacked, killing people in a nearby cafe.  I wanted out. Our time in Tel Aviv was cut short and we headed to the airport.  We called our parents from a payphone from the airport, reverse charges naturally, to say we were OK and were about to board a plane to Turkey. Flying El Al Israel Airlines up the back in the smoking section is only something I want to do once.

We landed in the capital of Ankara and spent a glorious month discovering Turkey. Remember we were travelling before twitter and the Internet and relied mainly on guide books and other backpackers for suggestions of what to do and where to go. We travelled to the centre of Turkey, where Mr Woog showed a fine skill set for happy pant wearing and pot throwing.

And we travelled to a place called Cannakale, which is better known to Australians as Gallipoli. It was one of the best things I have done. You would have to have poison running through your veins not to be moved by the area.

Our plan was to reach Istanbul and meet up with some friends do to a little partying. And a little kebab eating. and a little sheesha pipe smoking. And a bit of rug buying.  I had survived several near death experiences, but little did I know my greatest survival challenge lay just around the corner.

To Be Continued.........

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